What's the difference?

The world has been saddened in the past week or so by a few widely reported shootings on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Charleston, South Carolina ‘a shooter’ entered a church and shot nine dead including the Pastor during bible study.  They were all African Americans.  The assassin claimed he went to the church to ‘shoot black people’ and justified the actions using a  ‘white-supremacy’ creed according to CNN.  As well as leading the singing of Amazing Grace at the funeral of the deceased Pastor, President Obama called on the population of the USA to come together - regardless of colour or religious belief to eliminate racial discrimination.  It’s not the first time Obama has been a speaker at the commemoration of lives of people that had been killed in cold blood by shooters across the USA.  The ‘reasons’ and ‘motivations’ may be different on each occasion – the sad reality is the US hasn’t learnt from the previous occasions.

The world was horrified in December 2012 when ‘a gunman’ entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 20 students aged 6 or 7 as well as six adults.  As you would expect, there was significant media coverage.  Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, there have been 92 other school shootings in the USA.

In the past few days, according to CNN, ‘a gunman’ walked along a beach in Tunisia and shot dead 38 people, injuring a further 39.  On this occasion a militant Islamic group claimed the perpetrator was acting under their orders.  On the same day there was another mass murder in a Kuwait mosque where a person detonated explosives killing 27 and injuring a further 227 people – allegedly on the orders of the same militant group. In France, a chemical plant was blown up and some flags were found on the premises with Islamic text on them.

Over the weekend, our Government rightly condemned the shootings in Tunisia, Kuwait and the damage caused in France.  Abbott claimed that the militant Islamic group is ‘coming after us‘.  There are pages of results on any search engine where Tony Abbott and his Government rail against ‘terrorism’.  There is very little available if you search for Tony Abbott and comment on the close to 100 shootings in the USA.

While one shooting for religious or any other grounds is far too many – and all the families, first responders as well as those that have to ‘clean up’ after such horrible events deserve our sympathy, care and concern, unfortunately the mass murder of innocent people to promote causes seems to be acceptable to certain groups around the world.

In reality – what is the difference between someone who shoots their way into a school in the US, indiscriminately shooting 6 and 7 year olds, someone who shoots dead people at a bible class in South Carolina and someone that walks along a beach in Tunisia and shoots adult tourists?  While logically both perpetrators are multiple murderers, our society seems to have distinctions based on the racial or religious profile of the criminals involved.

Why is it that the 92 school shootings in the US since 2012 are ‘explained’ away as the actions of people with mental or anger issues, with the people that commit the crime classed as shooters or gunmen; while others are called terrorists.  Regardless of race, religion or other relationship – they are all murderers.  Murder is a crime – regardless of your religion, political or other beliefs.

So why are some mass murderers called terrorists and other gunmen or shooters?   It seems to be something to do with the person committing the crime or where the crime is committed.  Coming from an Australian perspective, school shootings in the US are as completely incomprehensible as blowing up a chemical plant in France or killing people worshipping according to their beliefs at a mosque in Kuwait. 

Where logic fails, the next question to ask is who stands to gain from the differentiation of the people committing the murders?  It certainly isn’t the victims, you would have to believe the assassins don’t really take the time to determine what type of criminal they are (they probably don’t even see the connection between their actions and criminality) and those that have to face the rest of their lives without loved ones probably don’t care if their loved one was a victim of a terrorist or a 'shooter' with documented 'health issues'.

Is labelling some mass murders as terrorism while others are due to the mental state or beliefs of ‘shooters’ or ‘gunmen’ solely the province of (usually) conservative politicians and media?  Abbott and others around the world claim they are keeping their country safe by the imposition of increasingly harsh legislation to victimise terrorists. Where the only ‘genuine’ closed society left in the world is North Korea – has terrorism replaced communism as the generator of fear throughout the world?  There doesn’t seem to be any other likely explanation.

What do you think?

The cunning plan

Last week, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey advised those that couldn’t enter the Sydney property market to ‘get a good job that pays well’.  Apart from the implied discrimination made by the suggestion that jobs that don’t pay enough to enter the property market aren’t good, it shows how completely out of touch Hockey is with reality.  Mel Wilson, who lives in Wodonga, took Hockey to task over his comment in a letter – thankfully for us, the Business Insider website got a copy of it.  Unfortunately it is too long to republish here but the salient points are:

The average weekly wage according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics on 1st January 2015 was $1,128.70, or $58,692.40 before tax. This means a take home amount of about $904.00 per week.


The median house price in Sydney, according to the Domain Group Housing Price Report, as of March 2015, was $914,056.


Not sure if you know how first home buying works at the moment, but you normally need a deposit of about 20%. This is to pay for the Stamp Duty (which is a State Tax you must pay every time you buy a property), and also to assist in the approval process so that you don’t need to pay Lenders Mortgage Insurance.


So in this instance, the first home buyer would need about $182,811.00 saved to purchase a house that is the average price in Sydney.


Ms Wilson then calculates that if a young person who she calls Joe Junior goes to University and gains a degree, he would be around 21 and have a $20,000 HECS debt over his head.  If Joe Junior then gets a job that pays the average wage of $904 per week, lives at home and doesn’t spend a cent – by 25 he might have the $182,811 saved to buy an average house in an average suburb.


Luckily Joe Junior’s parents have been happy to drive their little Joe Junior to and from work every day and provide free housing, clothing, medical expenses and also provide the food for his breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.


So finally Joe Junior has saved his $182,811 deposit (of which only about half will go towards his mortgage due to the stamp duty cost), and can now purchase his first home, with a mortgage of about $822,650.00.


According to the Commonwealth Bank’s online mortgage estimator, the repayments for a mortgage of this amount are $1,073.00 per week over 30 years.


So hopefully Joe Junior’s average weekly wage of $904.00 has gone up enough to cover the cost of the mortgage.


 So Joe Junior moves into his average house in an average suburb.  His entire salary goes to paying off the home loan so he spends nothing on himself – again.  As he isn’t living with them, his long suffering parents are no longer providing food, transport, medical expenses and so on – which leaves Joe Junior in an interesting position.


It’s not the first time that Hockey has demonstrated his complete lack of knowledge of all activity and enterprise within the Australian community.  Fairfax media lists some of the memorable clangers, including incorrect claims on bulk billing rates in his electorate, smoking cigars outside Parliament House prior to bringing down a self-proclaimed ‘tough’ budget, claiming that the poor don’t drive too far and shouldn’t be worried about an increase in fuel excise, comparing the proposed Medicare co-payment to purchasing cigarettes or beer and taking a week’s leave (in Fiji) when the Senate was considering his budget measures.


Another political leader that seems to think he has a detailed knowledge of everything under his control is ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-un, who is the third in the dynasty that has controlled North Korea for the past half century or so.

Photo credit – The Guardian

During April, you might have missed the news that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un climbed the country’s highest peak and claimed that the exercise provided more mental strength than nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un was greeted at the top of the mountain by adoring members of the armed forces -  as seen above.  Apparently the current ruler of North Korea has a history of making pronouncements that educate and inspire the North Korean public to try harder to become better citizens.

It seems that ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-un is an instant expert on all aspects of life in the reclusive country.  The Daily Mail reports he offered ‘field guidance’ at a food factory as well as a shoe factory.  The Week shows him offering ‘expert guidance’ at a gym while The Telegraph reports that he ‘dressed down’ his weather forecasters for ‘many incorrect forecasts’! It seems that officials always surround Jong-un furiously writing down the ‘guidance’ of the ‘Dear Leader’.  The BBC goes some way towards explaining the protocol for the taking of notes and what happens to those that don’t do it ‘properly’.

The media reporting of Kim Jong-un’s ‘field guidance’ (outside the country) uses humour to suggest that he cannot possibly know enough about every aspect of his country to make a meaningful comment on matters as diverse as food production to weather forecasting.  Is it possible that Joe Hockey is imitating Kim Jong-un by offering ‘field guidance’ on matters such as the property market and the cost of running a car?

While no one would suggest that Hockey is capable of the same methods as used by Jong-un to maintain control, does the cunning plan involve Hockey turning Australians into an army of sycophants that will accept his ‘advice’ without question - just as those who live in North Korea seem to do?

What do you think?

Blessed are the meek

There are a couple of communities of older women that live in the suburbs surrounding mine.  They have dedicated their life to the service of others.  Some have taught in schools, some have assisted numerous people through hard times, some have provided support and assistance to those that for some reason or other have been unable to find solace through the social security system and in the majority of cases, these women have fulfilled a number of these roles.  They ask for no physical reward (although a thank you is always appreciated) and have met and overcome a number of challenges since they chose to take on a life time of altruistic service to others.  These women are Catholic nuns.

The reality of the last 50 years is that Catholic nuns have gone out and live in the community, have to look after themselves and are watching the demise of their chosen lifestyle happen in front of them.  For example, most Mater or Mercy branded hospitals around the world were started by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy.  In a lot of cases, the multi-million dollar businesses that the nuns built from literally nothing in larger population centres have been sold or the service converted to a ‘non-profit’ company as the Sisters don't have the people to run them any more.  Any profit from the health care service subsidise outreach services or fund services that benefit the community where the hospital is located.

In our increasing secular society, it is a fact that nuns are a dying breed – as the number of young women who choose to follow this lifestyle goes nowhere near the number of older nuns.  Most of the older nuns entered their chosen profession on the basis that if they performed the duties required of them, their physical needs would be taken care of by others (that these days just don’t exist).

Religious people in general have to face up to the secular world of today, the knowledge that there are few people to carry their work and traditions into the future and they are physically not as capable of fulfilling the demands of the work they used to do.  It must really hurt to see the entire organisation they believe in being caught up in the media reporting of practices that are frankly abhorrent at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  The behaviour isn’t solely an Australian failing, a similar enquiry has been undertaken in Ireland and similar results have been uncovered.

But it’s not only the Catholic Church that has this problem.  Other religious groups, the Scout Association and various sporting groups have been implicated in the Australian Royal Commission – as they all have overseas as well.  While institutional abuse of others needs to be exposed and those who have participated brought to account – there are consequences to the exposure that are probably underestimated. 

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so the saying goes.  Post-apartheid South Africa instituted the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ to ‘enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation’.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when discussing the South African Commission commented:

If you asked even the most sober students of South African affairs what they thought was going to happen to South Africa a few years ago, almost universally they predicted that the most ghastly catastrophe would befall us; that as sure as anything, we would be devastated by a comprehensive bloodbath.

It did not happen. Instead, the world watched with amazement, indeed awe, at the long lines of South Africans of all races, snaking their way to their polling booths on April 27, 1994. And they thrilled as they witnessed Nelson Mandela being inaugurated as the first democratically elected president of South Africa on May 10, 1994. Nearly everyone described what they were witnessing -- a virtually bloodless, reasonably peaceful transition from injustice and oppression to freedom and democracy -- as a miracle.

When the disaster did not overtake us, there were those who said, “Wait until a black-led government takes over. Then these blacks who have suffered so grievously in the past will engage in the most fearful orgy of revenge and retribution against the whites.”

Well, that prediction too was not fulfilled. Instead the world saw something quite unprecedented. They saw the process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when perpetrators of some of the most gruesome atrocities were given amnesty in exchange for a full disclosure of the facts of the offence. Instead of revenge and retribution, this new nation chose to tread the difficult path of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

There are a number of comparisons that can be made between the apartheid era in South Africa and the various bodies who’s members are being named and shamed in the various Commissions and Enquiries that have or are being conducted around the world.  It is fair to suggest that some have yet to learn the lesson of reconciliation and disclosure – as these two recent headlines from The Guardian highlight.  First, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor memoirs 'censored' by church and Vatican official's call for Pell to be removed will have 'set cat among the pigeons. 

While the recounting of their experiences to the Royal Commission is probably incredibly difficult and healing at the same time, the horrific actions perpetrated against the victims by individuals is a reflection of the actions of the individual – not the organisation they belonged to.  True, it seems that some of the organisational leaders covered up and made it difficult for the victims to be heard and receive assistance; but the organisation certainly didn’t tell the individual to perform the action or the cover-up.

Certainly, those that have abused their position and those that have covered up the abuse should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Those who are victims of the abuse deserve our sympathy and support – now and in the future.  However those who have worked unceasingly in the name of the organisations that are subject to the enquiries of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in a lot of cases for decades do not deserve to suffer further due to the actions of a few.  In a lot of cases, they are just as horrified as the rest of us.

What do you think?

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